March of the Bunglers

Vctor and Hugo, Bunglers in Crime, provided a brief season of entertainment for British children on a television series in 1991-92. Derived from two characters on the predecessor TV show Count Duckula, these notorious French brothers claim, “No crime is too big or too small for them to take on–or mess up.”

According to televisionistas, none of the episodes showed more than once on British TV despite their entertaining antics of selling the Eiffel Tower, attempting to steal the Mona Lisa, and spouting their favorite line, “Yes, and no, but mainly, no.”

Whether the leaders of the current administration watched these TV shows or not is unknown, but judging from their behavior, they may well have taken this goofy comic show to use as a model for running the country. The antics and excuses of the White House and its appointed officials play more like a comedy show intended to test the patience of the public than a real attempt to make adult decisions that affect the whole country. Several recent disclosures reveal the absurdity of the current situation.

The most recent and strangest case involves the revelation that Bush authorized the release of classified intelligence to the press involving charges that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from Niger, one of the major pieces of information used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq. When CIA agent Valerie Plame was outed in the charges and counter charges of whether the information was correct, President Bush said he would fire anyone in his administration who was involved.

Now it turns out the president was probably the leaker, leading to charges of his being “the leaker in chief.” He said at the time this was a serious charge and it is against the law; now that he has caught himself what will happen? Will the president fire himself? Did he know he was the leaker when he promised to fire anyone involved? Does he have the authority to fire himself?

We do know that Cheney told George Tenet, the head of the CIA, to report the evidence of Iraq’s efforts to obtain Niger uranium even though the CIA found no evidence to support the story, and Bush now says that was a mistake. Maybe this was a big joke from Victor and Hugo, Bunglers in Crime?

Now the Secretary of State and Defense are in a comedic dance. Rice admitted in Liverpool, England last week that the US had made “tactical errors, thousands of them.” But this week Rumsfeld told radio listeners, “I don’t know what she’s talking about,” and explained that Condi told him later “she was speaking figuratively, not literally.”

While there’s obviously no one in the current administration counting all the U.S. errors, do Rice and Rumsfeld know the difference between strategy and tactics? If so, what do they call using too few troops, disbanding the Iraqi army or leaving the country lawless? Maybe they are just playing a big joke on us?

Another joke is on someone: recently Homeland Security’s deputy press secretary was charged with 23 counts for attempting to seduce a 14-year-old girl on the Internet. Police arrested Brian J. Doyle after he sent her “hardcore pornographic movie clips,” which the police claim “are too extraordinary and graphic for public release.”

Just because a pedophile tells us how to protect “the homeland” doesn’t mean that his information is bad, but it makes you wonder. Who is in charge of the hiring and do we want criminals in charge of our security?

In March, the president’s top domestic policy adviser was busted for theft when he was caught “returning” $5,000 worth of merchandise he never paid for. A political appointee who had worked for Jesse Helms and Clarence Thomas, Claude Allen, also a born-again Christian who received $161,000 a year in salary, was smart. He would buy an item, take it to his car, return to the store and pick out the same item, and present his receipt for a refund. After Claude’s arrest, Bush declared him “a trusted advisor.” Maybe Claude was practicing for a new children’s shopping channel on TV?

In February, NASA disclosed that they had been allowing a 24-year-old to edit scientific writings to conform with the Bush’s views and to limit media access to James E. Hansen, a climate scientist who wanted to report evidence of global warming. A Bush political appointee, Hansen resigned after telling reporters there is “a cultural war” in the government over climate change, and admitting that he lied about graduating from Texas A&M. Later he said he hadn’t lied, merely forgotten to upgrade his resume. Maybe the school canceled his degree before he updated it?

Such gaffes make one long for the simple pleasure of children’s TV where bunglers are meant to be bunglers and we can all laugh at their antics instead of crying.

DON MONKERUD is an Aptos, California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues.



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